My journey into UX Design

When I decided that I would change my career from project/account management to UX Designer, I read a lot of articles having the same theme to the one that I am writing. So now, after more than a year and a half of being an UXer, I decided to share my story with other people who might be in the same situation I was some time ago.

But before doing this, let me take one step back and briefly introduce myself:

I’m Anca, I’m a music and a coffee lover; I’m in a continuous search of new sounds, tastes and feelings; I moved from Bucharest to Amsterdam almost 3 years ago because I found myself inspired by Amsterdam and by its people; and most importantly, I’m fascinated by human behaviour, technology and by the way these come together. I was a project/account manager for more than 5 years in different industries like transport, integrative medicine, pharmaceutics, cash supply which gave me a lot of experience in working with customers and in understanding and talking business.

However, I reached a point where I wanted to try something new, but to still be able to use all the experience that I gathered until now. I always had a creative part that I wanted to explore more. So after a lot of thoughts and sleepless nights, I decided that I should look for something that fits my inclinations and ambitions better.

And this is where the journey begins. I knew that I wanted something in the tech world (Hello!? this is where the future is and I want to be part of it) so I started looking at what new roles and demands are on the market. To my surprise, it didn’t take me too long to discover the concept of User Experience. It was love at first sight (I know it sounds cheesy, but it was!). I was going to my then-current job and in my lunch time I was reading articles about user experience design, how other people managed to get into this industry, what I should know, how to get prepared, how demanded this type of job was at that time and the list can continue (I’m sure that you, who are reading this article now, know what I’m talking about).

That was the moment when I realised that I should take this more seriously, that I should think of a real plan for achieving this (the project manager in me helped a lot with this).

What was the hardest part? Telling my friends and my parents that I’m going to quit my current well paid job because I like something that I didn’t really do before and I want to give it a chance as I think I might like it better.

I completely understand how this can sound a bit crazy and how their role is to tell me the truth (and I’m happy to have such people around me, I couldn’t do it without them), but despite almost all advices, I’m glad I did it my way.

After only 6 months, I found my first job as an UX Designer and I couldn’t be happier with what I do.

The feeling that what I do impacts millions of people around the world and it might make their day a bit better, motivates me to give it my best and to keep on learning.

How did I do it?

A lot of hard work and dedication. After I quit my job, I dedicated more than 8 hours per day to learning and practicing and I would like to share my experience with you.

So here is a short list of practical advices on how to get started in UX Design:

  1. Check what the most popular tools are and learn how to be a pro in using them: Sketch, Photoshop and InVision were the starting point.

Here are some really cool and easy to follow Sketch tutorials.

After watching these tutorials, I was able to start a project by myself in Sketch without further help.

Photoshop was way harder to learn as there is no compact documentation and the tool is very complex. I was lucky to have a very good friend who was a pro in using Photoshop and he gave me a few exercises and guided me through the learning process. That made a huge difference.

2. Join communities alike.

Don’t be afraid to go to meet-ups and talk to people. You will be amazed of how much other professionals are willing to help and to discuss their daily challenges. It helps you understand the general vibe of the domain and if you would enjoy it as much as you would think.

I attended meet-ups from groups like: UX Amsterdam, Ladies that UX, UX Research Meeting, AMSx Tech Meetups, Behaviour Design AMS and the list can continue. There are a lot of websites out there, just look around and see which ones you like best. My favourite one is meetup.com.

3. Practice, practice, practice and… practice again

The best way to learn is to learn by doing.

In the beginning take a few examples of websites that you really like and copy their frames, understand what their doing, why are they doing it, what would you improve if you could. You can even use this as a case study for your future portfolio.

Experience can be an important factor, but what’s even more important is how you think: if you manage to prove that you have the right mind-set, that’s all you need.

4. Read as much as possible: online and offline

A few publications that I read frequently:

  • Smashing Magazine: great articles about best practices in UX, UI and development;
  • Hacking UI: useful articles about UX, UI, but also nice tips related to new tools and plugins.
  • Nielsen Norman Group: if you want to make informed decisions, this is the place where you should look.

Of course that the list is waaaay longer, but these would be my top 3 recommendations to start with.

In terms of books, here is what I found to be extremely useful:

  • 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk
  • UX Design: Foundations for designing online user experiences
  • Don’t make me think by Steve Krug

Bottom of line, if you are a curious mind and you don’t like to get bored, then you will love UX Design. This domain offers you daily challenges and solving them will make you feel that you are actually contributing to the society.

I hope you find this article useful.

If you have any other tips, resources or any thoughts that you want to share, don’t be shy and leave a comment.

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